I just finished watching the first season of Jessica Jones on Netflix. It reminded me of reading a truly great book, like when I read The Shining for the first time. I couldn’t get enough of it, and started watching while working out and whenever else I could justify it, fitting in twenty minutes here and there until I reached the final episode, then wished there was a second season to keep watching.
Let me start off by saying that what makes Jessica Jones so interesting is her flaws. She’s no Superman, hell she’s not even the arrogant tech genius Tony Stark. Jessica is her own person, one who is full of regrets.
That theme of regret permeates every episode, with Jessica’s self-loathing apparent in almost all of her actions. When you’re first introduced to her, she’s a private investigator who’s tailing an unfaithful wife, then showing the husband the evidence, only to have him try to assault her. That’s when Jessica uses her super strength to launch her client through her front door – and that sums up this super hero in a nutshell. She’s irrational, self-destructive and one hot mess.
Despite all of her flaws and tough, surly exterior, there’s a sadness and longing that’s always lingering near the surface. Krysten Ritter does a masterful job of portraying this, letting the facade melt away in key moments. It reminds us that this difficult woman is really just trying to make it from day to day after suffering things that would drive most people completely insane.
In case you don’t know, the main villain in Jessica Jones is Kilgrave (subtle name, isn’t it?). In the comics, he’s also known as the Purple Man, but that moniker isn’t used in the show. David Tennant excels in this role, constituting what I would call the scariest and most formidable foe in the Marvel universe, at least on the screen.
Kilgrave can control anyone’s mind for a certain period of time. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually an incredibly frightening ability. He violates individuals’ personal freedom, forcing them to serve his will, which often involves completely humiliating themselves.
It quickly becomes apparent that Kilgrave, whom Jessica wrongly thought was dead (and was how she got out from under his mind control) is actually alive and plotting out how to make the “gifted” woman pay for what she did to him (he has a real victim complex, like most narcissists). This involves dismantling the shambles of her life, breaking her down little by little.
The big problem is that killing Kilgrave is no easy task. He covers himself well, plus you could send the Hulk after him and he’d just bend the big green guy’s will to whatever ends Kilgrave desires. That fact makes him formidable and incredibly tough to beat. How Jessica decides to take him on is genius, and shows her true grit as she goes through some costly trial and error situations. I won’t ruin the finale, but it’s rewarding and fitting on many levels.
As a bonus, you’re introduced to two additional heroes. Luke Cage becomes Jessica’s complicated love interest. If you’re not a fan of the comics, know that Luke not only is incredibly strong, he also has skin that can’t be penetrated, burned, etc. Then there’s Hellcat, even though she’s only referred to as Patricia Walker in the show (so far, that is). She was a child star and Jessica’s step-sister after Jessica’s family was tragically killed in the accident that gave her super strength. That relationship is complex, adding some interesting depth to the Jessica Jones storyline.
There’s also a great supporting cast of people who don’t have powers. For example, Jessica’s weirdo neighbors, who have a plethora of interesting issues. Add the cold, calculating attorney who feeds Jessica many of her clients, and you have an explosive cocktail that results in some interesting situations.
Ultimately, Jessica Jones is a story about regret. It explores that theme’s dynamics in issues such as addiction, the hard decisions we all make and abusive relationships. If you want to just watch the show for entertaining action, there’s plenty of that, but the story is also more cerebral than many, for those who want to dig in and examine it – much like Breaking Bad or Dexter. That’s really saying something about Jessica Jones, and I don’t have any qualms about giving it such an endorsement.